This week sees the release of an extraordinary compilation from London’s Honest Jon’s imprint, Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa.
Put together by Mark Ainley and Mark Ernestus (Rhythm & Sound / Basic Channel, it collects the Shangaan dance output of the Nozinja Studio in Soweto, South Africa, recorded in the years 2006-2009. These bewilderingly high-velocity, marimba-heavy tracks defy easy description, but there’s no disputing their uncanny similarity to old Megadrive and NES soundtracks.
Shangaan – which to be quite honest we didn’t know existed until this compilation landed in our lap – won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the adventruous among you owe it to yourselves to check it out. We’re still getting our heads around what we’re hearing, but it’s safe to say that Shangaan Electro might just be one of the maddest, baddest records to be released this year. You can check out sound clips and some amazing videos here.
We’ll let Nozinja mainman Richard tell you more:
“My name is Richard, my stage name is Nozinja, from Nozinja Music Productions. I’m from Giyani in Limpopo. I’m an engineer, I’m a producer, I’m a composer. It’s my record label. I’m the marketing manager. I transport them — I’ve got a micro-bus. I do everything on my own. I’ve got manufacturing. I buy CDs, I will silk-screen myself. I sing, too.
“I’m a scout for talent. When you look at the person, you must see the artist. He or she must be able to dance. If you can dance, you can sell. Shangaan dancers, they dance, they can go on for almost an hour with that speed, without getting tired. When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones. It’s similar to the Zulus, but faster and we put a lot of style inside. There’s disco in there, we use Pantsula moves.
“We don’t use the sounds of the hip-hop guys, or the afro-pop, or whatever, we’re using Shangaan sounds. The traditional Shangaan music is fast. You play it slow, they won’t dance. Firstly it was played with bass and lead guitar. I’m the one revolutionized it, because when I came I didn’t use any guitar or any bass, I just used marimba and the organs. We are not using the live bass, we are using the marimba bass which is played from the organ. A small sample of voices, that’s what I specialize in. We use them in English. Those are the new aspects they never had before. At first people thought I was mad, and now it’s the in-thing. You can play that music with bass, that’s the old-timer music.
“Shangaan is fast. While others play at 110, we are at 180, 182, 183. And when you hear those marimba beats and that live guitar through the keyboard, you know it’s Shangaan. You hear those toms, then you know, this is Shangaan music. Shangaans don’t typically love Joburg. They work in Joburg, but their heart is in Limpopo. People want to go back to the country and to their families. Limpopo is rural. It’s hot, very hot and vibey. Shangaan music is about love. It’s about a wife and a husband. We are family-oriented musicians. Now Shangaan music is both, rural and urban. We jumped the boundaries by changing that bass into playing with the marimba, that’s when we touched the nerves, and now it’s all over.”
1. BBC – Ngunyuta Dance – The Shake-Your-Behind Dance
2. Tshetsha Boys – Nwa Pfundla – Pfundla’s Daughter
3. Mancingelani – Vana Vasesi – My Sister’s Children
4. Zinja Hlungwani – Ntombi Ya Mugaza – Shangaan Woman
5. BBC – Ngozi – Danger
6. Zinja Hlungwani – Nwa Gezani – Gezani’s Daughter
7. Tiyiselani Vomaseve – Vanghoma
8. Nka Mwewe – Khulumani – Let’s Talk
9. Tiyiselani Vomaseve- Na Xaniseka – I’m Suffering
10. Zinja Hlungwani – Nwa Gezani My Love – Gezani’s Daughter, My Love
11. Tshetsha Boys – Uya Kwihi Ka Rose – Rose, Where Are You Going?
12. Zinja Hlungwani – Thula – So Quiet